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Western Illinois, Year 34, 2040-2041

Can the Leathernecks repeat as national champions in our College Hoops 2K8 sim?

Welcome back to our simulated dynasty with the Western Illinois Leathernecks in College Hoops 2K8. You can find a full explanation of this project + spoiler-free links to previous seasons here. Check out the introduction to this series from early April for full context. As a reminder, we simulate every game in this series and only control the recruiting and coaching strategies. Dynasty mode runs for 40 years.

Before we pick up with the Leathernecks at the start of Year 34, here’s a recap of everything that happened last season:

  • Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four, we returned the bulk of our lineup and started the new year at No. 13 in the preseason polls. We lost only one game in the non-conference slate to Ole Miss, the same team that knocked us out the previous year, but then swept through the Summit League to enter the NCAA tournament at 33-1 overall.
  • We were given a No. 3 seed to the big dance. We beat Hartford in the first round, Texas A&M in the round of 32, Pepperdine in the Sweet 16, and West Virginia in the Elite Eight. We then beat Baylor in the Final Four, and defeated Louisville in the national championship game. It’s our eighth title in program history and puts us two away from tying John Wooden’s record of 10 national championships.
  • We recruited for two scholarships and landed a pair of four-star recruits: shooting guards Augustine Bruthelieus and Jerald Elliott.

Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 34:

Last year’s national championship was huge for our quest to become the greatest college basketball program in history. We now have eight national championships with seven seasons to go before mandatory retirement after Year 40. Our goal is to surpass John Wooden’s 10 titles at UCLA for the most ever by a head coach at one school.

We bring back three starters from last year’s national title team, including the elite backcourt of Randolph Pompey and Scott Doornekamp. We will be missing one big piece from last season, though. Center Vinnie Harmon broke the program’s all-time scoring record last season and averaged 27.5 points per game as a senior, then went off to the NBA after winning Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. It’s going to take a true team effort to replace his production — and we’re getting some added reinforcements with one of our best recruiting classes ever set to join the rotation as redshirt freshmen.

We start the new year at No. 4 in the preseason polls. Let’s meet the starters:

  • PG Randolph Pompey, redshirt senior, 91 overall: Pompey was an afterthought on the recruiting trail who came in with the worst potential grade (D) of any prospect we’ve ever had. He has surprisingly emerged ever since as one of the greatest point guards I’ve ever coached on the brink of his senior season. A 6’5 guard when he entered the program, Pompey now stands 6’8 and combines a reliable three-point shot (85 rating) with tremendous defensive instincts. He’s only average as a ball handler and passer, and underwhelms with a C+ grade in quickness, but his size and spot-up shooting has made him a monster in the biggest games. He finished with three double-doubles in our tournament run last year, including a 15-point, 11-assist effort in the title game vs. Louisville. Former No. 134 overall out of Mesquite, TX.
  • SG Scott Doornekamp, redshirt senior, 94 overall: Doornekamp was projected as a first round pick last year but decided to come back for his senior season. He’s coming off one of the greatest tournaments in program history, averaging 22.3 points per game on our run to the title. The 6’6 shooting guard is a 90-rated three-point shooter who grades out as an A+ in finishing, a B in dunking, a B+ in handling, an A- in passing, an A in speed, and an A- in quickness. Projected lottery pick in the NBA draft. Former No. 111 overall recruit with C+ potential.
  • SF D.J. Stapleton, redshirt junior, 89 overall: Stapleton is one of two new starters as he enters the lineup for the first time as a redshirt junior. We were a bit leery of giving him the starting job because he’s a poor three-point shooter (71 rating), but we’re hoping he brings enough else to the table to offset that. The 6’6 wing is a hustle guy — as evident by his A rating in hustle. He also has A- ratings in on-ball defense, defensive rebounding, speed, and close range finishing. Former No. 91 overall recruit Reno, Nevada with C+ potential.
  • PF Ernesto Mack, redshirt senior, 91 overall: Mack is a bulldozer power forward who lacks three-point range on his jump shot, but wins with his A rating in strength. The 6’8 senior has a 99-rating in close range finish and is rated as an A in shot blocking. He’s strangely only an average rebounder, and his size holds him back a little bit in stream games. He was a key glue guy in our run to the title last year, but will need to step his game up a bit without Harmon around. Former No. 108 overall recruit and No. 8 power forward out of Columbus, Ohio with C potential.
  • C Stevie Strong, redshirt junior, 88 overall: Strong is our other new starter this year, and he has big, big shoes to fill replacing Harmon after his legendary career. In addition to having one of the great names in Leathernecks history, Strong has a pretty well-rounded skill set as an inside scorer, shot blocker, and rebounder. Former No. 179 overall recruit (and No. 15 center) out of Hammond, IN with C+ potential.

I’m super excited about our bench. The reserves are led by two veterans in redshirt juniors Kendric Morales (6’10 big man with shooting ability) and Rob Borchardt (6’6 wing shooter). Then we have arguably our greatest recruiting class ever coming off their redshirt season to join the rotation. The most exciting addition is Aryvdas Hardy, a 6’4 point guard who is our second highest-rated recruit ever at No. 12 overall. He’s a dynamite shooter and should be a major weapon off the bench. We also have 6’9 forward Reece Mascoll, 7-foot power forward Al Reece, and 6’11 center Felipe Hopes. I’m jacked up about the future of this entire class.

We will again be redshirting our incoming freshmen class. We have two guys entering the mix:

  • 6’4 SG Augustine Bruthelieus: 79 overall with C+ potential. Former No. 42 overall recruit out of San Diego.
  • 6’6 SG Jerald Elliott: 76 overall with B- potential. Former No. 35 overall recruit out of Sacramento.

Recruiting

We have three scholarships to recruit for this year. This would be our second-to-last recruiting class that will have the opportunity to stay all five years before the series ends after Year 40. We need a guard, a big, and a wing.

After surveying the options, we decided to offer scholarships to the following players:

  • 7-foot center D.J. Foster out of Chicago: No. 173 overall player and No. 6 center.
  • 6’3 point guard Demon Cable out of Houston: No. 60 overall player and No. 27 at his position.
  • 6’6 small forward Elijah Proffitt out of Oceanside, CA: No. 136 overall player and No. 26 at his position.

Unfortunately I didn’t think we had a chance with any of the stud prospects this year, so we’re going to play it safe and hope for three guys who can stay all five years and be contributors if not saviors. We’re see how this goes.

TOP FIVE IN THE PRESEASON POLLS. Let’s go!

How did the non-conference slate go?

After a 3-0 start, we lost to No. 13 Indiana, 76-70, to quickly dash our hopes of a perfect season. We responded with wins over Illinois and UConn before taking on No. 1 Michigan State in a game between two teams rated as a 99 overall. You can watch the last minute of that game here if you want to — or just watch the final play:

We ended up winning, 88-86, a game-winning buzzer-beater from Stevie Strong. The most exciting development might have been how great beefy 6’9 redshirt freshman forward Reece Mascoll looked off the bench in finishing with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. We followed that win with three straight dubs against Colorado State, Purdue, and No. 14 Ohio State before facing Arizona and falling by 10 points.

We ended the non-con season at 10-2 overall and at No. 9 in the polls following the loss to the Buckeyes.

Can we go undefeated in the Summit League once again?

Yes we can. 18-0, baby.

We’re entering the NCAA tournament at 30-2 on the year.

Before we get to March Madness, let’s check out the stats:

How’s that for a debut as a starter for Stevie Strong? He leads the team in scoring with 18.4 points per game and also grabs nearly five boards. I honestly think Doornekamp’s season is even more impressive. Scotty put up 14.3 points per game in his final year, shooting 52 percent from the floor and knocking down 50.4 percent of his threes on 117 attempts. Doornekamp is already a legend for the scoring tear that carried us to a national title last year, and I’d say he has a chance to go down as a Hall of Fame worthy player if can lead us to a repeat this March. Pompey was also solid — including a 37 percent mark from three — and we know he’s always at his best in the biggest games.

How did recruiting go?

We entered the fall recruiting period with three available scholarships, and we’ll end the regular season with all three still unclaimed. We’re in good position to land the 7-footer D.J. Foster, but we still have a little work to do in the first week of the spring signing period with UIC lurking.

As for our other two recruiting targets, Cable and Proffitt both went elsewhere. We’re instead targeting three-star 6’4 point guard Cam Kately (No. 113 overall) and four-star 6’7 small forward Sergio Hicks (No. 95 overall). We look like we have a good shot at Kately, but we have a ton of work to do on Hicks.

2041 NCAA tournament

We’re a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament with a first round matchup against Prairie State.

Before we get into that game, let’s check out the roster as it stands going into the tournament:

Can Scotty and Randy — aka the 3-Star Superstars — give us one more title on their way out of school? I hope so. This is starting to feel like one of the strongest rosters we’ve ever had given the championship-winning star-power at the top and as much talented depth as we’ve ever had here. Six guys rated in the 90s and everyone in the rotation at least a 85 overall — we are loaded as hell.

Let’s go win another national championship.

Our journey begins against the Southwestern Conference champ, No. 15 seed Prairie View. We’re rated a 100 overall and Prairie View is rated a 76. Because this is such a mismatch in our favor, we’re going to simulate this game without watching it on the stream.

Hopefully that decision doesn’t come back to bite us. Let’s go!

Win, 98-79. We scored on them at will from the opening tip and the bench held on in the second half to get an easy win.

What a great start for our redshirt junior center Stevie Strong, putting up 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting in the win. Harmon would be so proud. Nice to see our star freshman Hardy pop-off for double figures in his first ever tournament appearance. We have sky-high expectations for him before he leaves campus. That was a convincing win over a bad team, but things are going to start getting harder from here on out.

The win sets up a round of 32 matchup with No. 7 seed Minnesota

The Golden Gophers are a No. 7 seed. They enter the tournament rated as a 94 overall.

We streamed this one on Twitch. As always, I’m not controlling the Leathernecks, we’re watching the computer play the computer. Let’s go!

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Win, 110-92. We’re moving on to the Sweet 16!

That was a vintage Doornekamp tournament performance right there: 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 6-of-8 from three. Whew. He can fill it up. I’m even more impressed with DJ Stapleton, because I had no idea he could do that. Our junior small forward is supposed to be a hustle guy who struggles to shoot, but he was red shot in this one: 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three. Pompey and Mack were solid again as they always are.

Now we need to talk about Arvydas Hardy. Oh my, he was on fire. 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep, an absolute pull-up three king. If this is an indication of what’s to come for the freshman, he looks like he’s going to be an all-time great. I’ll also give a shout-out to the junior big man Morales, he also this silly layup:

The win sets up a Sweet 16 game against No. 3 Clemson

The Tigers enter rated as a 97 overall. We’re a 100 overall.

The dream of winning back-to-back championships is on the line. With a win, we’re moving into the Elite Eight. As always, we watched the simulated game and streamed it on Twitch.

Let’s go!

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Win, 99-80! We’re going to the Elite Eight!

This game was a lot closer than the final score indicated. The score was tied at 64 with 11 minutes left when we started a 19-4 run that blew the game open and put us into the regional final. I swear the game broke open after this huge transition dunk by 6’9, 245-pound freshman forward Reece Mascoll.

Mascoll (4-for-4 for eight points) is becoming a mismatch nightmare at either forward spot.

The veterans carried us from there. Randolph Pompey had 15 points and nine assists, and totally controlled the pace of the game. Stapleton was wonderful again, scoring 20 points and somehow continuing his hot shooting streak (4-of-7 from three) despite his low rating in that category. Stevie Strong dropped 18 points and continues to be a dependable inside scorer.

Then there was Scotty Doornekamp, going off for another 20-point game, including this big dunk.

The win sets up an Elite Eight game with No. 1 Florida State

The Seminoles are going to be a major jump up in competition from what we’ve faced so far. Both teams enter as a 100 overall. Here’s how the two squads matchup:

A win here would give us our third straight Final Four appearance. You will remember we lost to Ole Miss in the Final Four in Year 32, then rebounded to win the national championship last season. The 3-Star Superstars want back-to-back titles.

This FSU roster is completely stacked with five players rated in the 90s and a 7-foot center who can matchup well with Steve Strong. It won’t be easy. This could be our toughest game on the road to a national title.

Let’s go!

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Loss, 80-78. We lose at the buzzer and the dream of repeating as national champions has died.

This game was tight the entire way and always felt like it was going to come down to whoever had the final possession. Unfortunately for us, that was FSU. After Pompey missed a long two-point jumper that could have put us up three, Florida State drained the clock and worked for the last shot. They hit a heavily contested corner three to win the game and send us home:

It’s so sad to see Doornekamp and Pompey go out like this. Scotty was awesome again with another 20-point game. It wasn’t Randy’s best night (eight points, eight assists), but he was still fine and will go down as one of our better point guards ever. Stapleton looked good again and will have to be a leader on this team next year.

The biggest problem was Stevie Strong. After a tremendous year as a first-time starter and a productive tournament run, Strong was shutdown by FSU at the worst possible time. He ended the night 0-for-12 for zero points.

The future of the program is still bright. All four members of our freshman class — Hardy, Mascoll, Hopes, and Reece — look tremendous. Hardy is a superstar in the making:

This loss stings but we thank Doornekamp, Pompey, and Mack for bringing us title No. 8 last year. We want title No. 9 ASAP and time is running out. Let’s get to the offseason.

Offseason

  • Nevada beats Michigan State (who beat FSU) in the national championship game.
  • Doornekamp gets drafted into the NBA and ends his career with 1,686 points. He has to be one of our highest scoring guards ever. What a career. Mack and Pompey also graduate. I’m shocked Pompey didn’t get drafted, but that’s what a D potential rating will do to you. Either way: Pompey was a total stud as a 6’8 point guard and I’m not sure we’ll ever have anyone like him again. Thank you for bringing us a title.
  • Our career record: 981-189 (I think. It could also be a 961, hard to tell. Check back on the next update to see if I misread it)
  • Florida State offers me their head coaching job. LOL. We’re staying in Macomb.

Recruiting

Three scholarships still open. We’ve been after 7-foot center D.J. Foster out of Chicago since the first day of the season. After a week of recruiting in the spring, we finally land him:

We needed a big badly, and Foster should be a great fit. Love his size, love his numbers, love that he’s another Chicago kid. As the No. 6 center in this class, he should be a monster.

We’re also been after three-star point guard Cam Kately. He commits a couple weeks later:

Kately looks like a solid get as the No. 114 prospect in the class. We love his size and projectable shooting at point guard. Long-time fans of the series may remember our former guard Tron Whaley, who was also a three-star recruit with good size and shooting. We’re hoping Kately can have a similar career. It would be cool if he grows a couple more inches.

We have one more scholarship left to offer, but our target Sergio Hicks commits elsewhere. Ideally we want a power forward with shooting ability who can swing to small forward in a pinch, but there aren’t any good options that are gettable this late in the process.

After scanning the available prospects, we decide to offer 6’7 shooting guard Ketshner Evertson, a four-star prospect rated No. 96 overall in his class. He commits a week later.

I’m loving the size of this class with a 7-foot center, 6’4 point guard, and 6’7 shooting guard. It comes in as the No. 36 class in America. Not nearly as good as two years ago — that Hardy, Mascoll, Reece, and Hopes class was top-five — but I think they should be really solid.

Now it’s time to set our schedule for next year. We go with:

@ Fordham, Maui Invitational, Auburn, @ Syracuse, @ Florida State, Illinois, @ Michigan State, La Salle

Year 35

Here’s a first look at the roster for Year 35:

It’s going to be a new era without Doornekamp and Pompey, but I’m so excited for our sophomores to take on a bigger role. I love our depth already.

All three freshmen are going to redshirt. Here’s where they came in at:

  • C D.J. Foster, No. 6 overall center: 74 overall, C potential
  • SG Ketshner Evertson, No. 96 overall recruit: 73 overall, B potential
  • PG Cam Kately, No. 114 overall recruit: 72 overall, B- potential. Has already grown an inch to 6’5.

Not our best class, and I’m especially disappointed to see where Foster came in, but I still think these guys will be good contributors. We’ll have four more scholarships to recruit for next year, which will be our final class that can stay all five years before the series ends.

We’re going to be streaming Year 35 on Sunday, April 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET on my Twitch channel. Spoiler alert: We’re already in the Elite Eight. Let’s go win a natty.

Watch Western Illinois’ Year 35 tournament run

What: Western Illinois’ Year 35 NCAA tournament run, starting in the Elite Eight

When: Sunday, April 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Where: My Twitch stream

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